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2021 (when the going gets tough)

Thinking about everything that the past couple of months has been makes me very anxious:

  • the COVID situation outside

  • fear for my near and dear ones

  • overworking because I want to avoid nasty thoughts

  • extreme tiredness owing to the second and the third points

For many many weeks, I just worked on weekends because I did not want to worry myself shitless (worse still 'doom scroll' - I do that around bedtime anyway, despite my NO SCREEN TIME 30-45 MINS BEFORE YOU SLEEP rule, so clearly that's going pretty well)

The one thing that helps keep my mind off things that stress me out is cooking. But because I was so tired (I still am, oh well), cooking almost took a backseat these past few weeks. It took some effort to snap out of it.

So, I'm back to this routine where I work pretty damn hard through the week (I take the odd evening through the week off, working on updating blog posts here or some such) and cook my heart out on weekends. Yes, work doesn't go away just like for me. So I still do my 2-3 hours, but I THINK I've gotten a hang of how to manage my time with this. I THINK.

Anyway, moving on to updates for February, March and April of 2021.

February 2021

February was a super fun month. We continued our little obsession with all things Asian and cooked out of Pippa Middlehurst's Dumplings and Noodles.

This just in from her post from a few hours ago - her book has been shortlisted in the First Cookbook category at The Guild of Food Writers Awards this year.

And to think about everything we picked from the book - dumplings, chilli oil, pork belly, buns, hand-pulled noodles, what not.

The book was an absolute joy to cook from and we'd keep exchanging messages with one another about what we had planned for the weekend to come.

Cooking from the book (or rather, picking the book at the beginning of the month) made me think about how often we've cooked Asian food (be it specific to a country NOT in the Indian subcontinent, but in Asia... or be it a mix of Asian foods). Given that I've been trying to do this month on month since the summer of 2017, I made a nerdy little graph.

There were 54 picks through the 4 years, 46 unique ones. By 54, I simply mean this

  • before the pandemic, we did city-wise potlucks and often 3 different cities in a month meant 3 different books

  • or then perhaps a book A was done in a particular month P in city X. Maybe it was done again for month Q in city Y.

And of the 46 books, 14 were Asian (country-specific or general) and 11 were Indian (regional or general) - that's about 30% and 22% respectively. If that's too much geeking out over stats for a 'mere' cookbook selection, I'd like to mention that I actually had a good amount of fun doing this. And I might do so again (make stats, that is) next year. Bear with me. *sheepish grin*

March 2021

Moving on, for March everyone was really enthusiastic about picking a book that involved dessert, along with savoury stuff. So two books for the month. However, I'm not really sure of how I'm going to manage two books on the Instagram account yet. So we stuck with one - Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's Sweet.

I was in luck. I managed to score cape gooseberries (those were the last of the season, my fruit vendor tells me). And jumped at the idea of making a cape gooseberry and yoghurt pavlova. Light. Just the right amount of tartness to cut through the sweetness of the meringue. And downright delicious.

Cheesecakes, tahini brownies, cookies, pannacottas (pannacottae?) - gosh. The dessert were so filling, I wonder how folks would've managed a sweet AND a savoury item from one (or two) cookbooks on the same day. Or else, they'd just have done one on one day and the other on another, heh.

April 2021

For April, we wanted to do something regional and Indian. Bengali food was the first thing that came to our minds. We thought of a couple of books we could cook out of - there were a couple of Chitrita Bannerjee cookbooks and Bong Mom's Cookbook. We went for the latter. But upon further snooping around on the internet I realized there were so many more options that we could have explored.

  • Many moons ago, the folks from Pune had cooked from The Calcutta Cookbook for a cookbook meetup one month.

  • Life and food in Bengal and Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals - both by Chitrita Banerji - I've heard these make for BEAUTIFUL reading and very very interesting cooking. A little bit of a regret here, that I have, for not picking either of these.

  • Oh! Calcutta has a cookbook. I remember eating at an Oh! Calcutta in Pune when I was much younger - late 902, early 2000s, if you ask me. The food was good. Pretty darn good. I believe this book would have been fun to cook out of, had it been picked. Alas, I guess we didn't give looking at more books too much of a thought when we picked this one (not that this one was bad, by any means).

  • A lady named Kankana Saxena had written to The Cookbook Nook many months ago (probably even a couple of years ago, come to think of it) asking if we'd like to cook from her book Taste of Eastern India. It's a pity this never even crossed my mind when we were discussing books to cook out of for April.

But, all that said, this book was pretty good too. Homely food, Bangla style. What's not to like.

But but. It also made me think about The Bangala Table. And some of the other folk suggested Parsi food. So, I reached out to Rhea Mitra Dalal (whom I follow on Instagram) and asked if we could purchase any of Katy Dalal's Parsi books from a site that she knows of (I had trouble finding it online). One thing led to another, she joined the cookbook club group that we have and we (unfortunately) moved Parsi food to another month (hopefully July, Anahita Dhondy has a new book coming out towards the end of June).

I'm still eying Chettinad cuisine book (The Bangala Table). And, as my luck will have it, it's out of stock on Amazon.

May was about "it's too hot, let's do cocktails," so I'm going to do a post about that too. And with that, I think we've mostly caught up. Finally.

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